Sunday, 14 December 2014

A wee thank you post

In the last post I mentioned briefly that there have been many wonderful people who have accompanied me on this bizarre and wonderful journey that I've gone on this year. Their input into this year deserves much more than a small paragraph shoe-horned in between my other ramblings so I have dedicated this entire post to them.

Firstly, there are a couple of fairly generic mentions which need to be made. The purpose of this year was to raise a sum of money for two charities. To that end, I am eternally grateful to every single person who made a donation to either of the causes. I appreciate how annoying it must have been to be bombarded by my fundraising requests but the money that you have donated will be going towards two really wonderful causes. For this I thank you lovely, kind people. May your karma be forever good.

Further thanks are due to those who retweeted my blog posts, who liked my Facebook posts, who commented on the blog and anyone who took the time to read the words that I've written over the past year. The blog is small and it doesn't fit into most of the usual niches but each and every visit makes my heart sing a little bit so cheers for that. I hope that you've enjoyed the random chat that tends to go on around these parts.

Right, that's the generalities done with so let's crack on with the good stuff. This year would not have been nearly as wonderful without those that joined in with me. Nor indeed would it have been possible at all without others. They all deserve a special mention.

Andrea 




I don't see you nearly often enough for my own good. Without your help this year I likely would have been completely underprepared for climbing Ben Nevis (who knew I'd need waterproofs, walking boots and comfy socks!?). Thanks are due for inviting me to your Mum's wonderful home in Aberfeldy and forcing me to climb at least one smaller mountain before attempting to reach the highest point in the UK. That really was quite a sensible idea. I'm glad that I bagged my first Munro with you at my side.

I suppose also that I should make a begrudging thanks for suggesting that our recuperative Sunday involve a 20km bike ride, albeit punctuated by a visit to the market to buy cakes.

Finally, I'm so lucky to have a climbed Ben Nevis alongside a friend with pockets full of blister plasters and energy bars which I raided throughout the climb.

Let's do it all again soon.

The Ben Nevis crew (Amy, Andrea, Livy and Ryan)


You all made one of the hardest challenges also one of the most enjoyable. Thank you for making the three hour trip up to Fort William and I'm sorry that you were forced to listen to my chat for nearly eight hours but please know that I enjoyed every second of it.

Thanks for looking vaguely concerned when I fell on my bum (Livy) and for ramming energy bars down my throat when I was close to collapse (Ryan and Andrea).

Three peaks challenge next year guys? No? Oh well.

Caitlin




My wee pal and the only person stupid brave enough to take on Tough Mudder with me. You put me to shame, beasting your way through all the obstacles and waiting patiently for me as I had a wobbly at the thought of jumping into the water. I'm forever grateful that you did just about as little training as I did in preparation for the day, so my feelings of guilt and panic were somewhat lessened.

Let's run the whole way next year?

Ian

My Edinburgh 'Dad' who helped me to overcome the mental block which was stopping me from swimming. Without your help I'd have never completed the Triathlon, had the nerve to jump off a twelve foot drop into muddy water, or even considered the possibility of getting myself into a kayak. What a loss that would have been.

So, thank you for not laughing too much when you discovered that I don't even put my face under the shower and for introducing me to the wonderful invention that is the nose clip.

Lorraine

My Edinburgh 'Mum' who has helped me discover some of the most wonderful parts of Edinburgh. I always enjoy coming along on your walks and I'm sorry that I haven't made it along to all of them this year. I'll try harder next year. That first twelve mile walk back in February made it clear that I was definitely underestimating the stamina required to climb a mountain.

The NFU Scotland girls.





Firstly, thanks go to Michelle and Ruth who roped me into Colour Me Rad which was a thirteenth challenge for the year. Perhaps they thought that I didn't have enough going on!? Regardless, it was great fun so thanks for the suggestion and for joining me around the course.

A special thanks are in order for Michelle who very kindly provided me with a fancy, shiny bike to take part in the Triathlon after my childhood bike died a painful death on the Duathlon course. I am very sorry that I stained the handlebars with my wet gloves. Further to the crucial loan of a bike, Michelle also provided me with wet shoes which perfectly co-ordinated my outfit for the kayak adventure. If anyone can help such a lost cause look vaguely co-ordinated, they must be a very stylish person indeed.

Kerry and Ruth deserve a special thanks for calming my nerves ahead of the kayak challenge and for being much braver than I am and venturing out onto the Loch before me.

All of the NFU Scotland girls have been wonderful in sharing my adventure with others and supporting me in any way possible. You are wonderful. I miss you all.

My parents.


I can't even begin to thank you sufficiently for your support this year. You have been my biggest supporters, commenting on everything I've posted on social media, giving FAR more than your fair share of donations to the fundraising page, reading my blog religiously and transporting me around the country to enable me to embark on these ridiculous endeavours.

I'm forever grateful that you didn't attempt to talk me out of anything, even when I know you'd rather I didn't do it. You didn't even get TOO annoyed when I told you via a Facebook post that I'd be kayaking down a Loch the next morning.

You stood outside in miserable, Scottish weather on more than one occasion to watch me crossing the finish line. My nerves often got the better of me and I was snappy and short with you but you both knew that it was just nervous anticipation and you let it slide. Sorry and thanks for that.

Finally, just a huge thank you for being brilliant, funny and for supporting me no matter what hare-brained idea I come up with - this year and beyond.

Ryan.



Thanks for spending your precious free time designing the blog and for not getting (too) annoyed when I changed my mind and said that I wanted something different from what you'd been doing for the the past 89, 475, 656 hours.

On the subject of blog design, it was nice of you to pretend to be impressed when I managed to make all my pictures and text align. I know that it was most definitely not as exciting for you as it was for me so cheers for letting my joys be yours too.

When not giving up your time to make the blog look pretty, you've also given up more of your Sundays than you should have to act as my personal videographer/photographer/coat holder/general lackey. I am forever demanding the centre of attention and you are forever accommodating of that.

Outside of your work behind the scenes you've also accompanied me on a couple of the challenges. I'm glad that you agreed to join in the Ben Nevis climb even though your poor knee probably didn't benefit from a seven hour hike up a huge hill. It wouldn't have been the same without you at my side.

You also joined in the challenge at Go Ape. There is nobody I'd rather be fannying about the tree tops with. I think there's a rhyme about something like that....

Finally, thank you for being around for all of my adventures and here's to many more.




Challenge 12: The Santa Dash and some musings on a fairly spectacular year.













Today I completed the final of twelve challenges this year. As you can see from the photos above, this challenge involved dressing up as Santa Clause and running around Princes Street Gardens. A perfectly fitting end to a bizarre year, I think. There isn't too much to write about this particular challenge as I just ran around the gardens five times - not that exciting - so the photographs should suffice and instead now I'll just waffle a little about this whole year instead.

The idea for this year of challenges wasn't entirely born on the 1st of January 2014, rather it had been buzzing around in my brain for quite a while in some form or another. I wanted 2014 to be a year of achievement, of getting out there and doing things I'd never done before and of trying to push beyond my self imposed limits. I like to collect experiences and this year was primarily a way to force myself into doing that, whilst also raising money for two charities which were very close to my heart.

It was a difficult task starting this blog. Each post I published made me cringe a little. I re-read posts later and chided myself for small mistakes, for prose which sounded cheesy or melodramatic or for jokes which in hindsight, weren't that funny. There were many occasions that I considered just calling it a day but then I would remind myself that the whole point of this year was to push myself to continue at something even when I felt like I might not be good enough.

So I continued to write. I also kept on running, cycling and swimming when I felt like I'd rather throw in the towel. I made my way down from heights even when my brain was screaming at me not to take the step off of the comfortable, firm ground. I swallowed my pride and begged, with varying degrees of success, for raffle items. I dragged myself up, not one but two, mountains. I withstood multiple electric shocks to my arse. I half-arsed it a lot of the time and over-compensated on the carbs (what's new?) but I had a bloody brilliant time and I would do it all over again in a heart beat.

Throughout all of this, I've learned a couple of things along the way which I'm going to take it upon myself to share with you. You can thank me later.

1) I am a failure and am not even that bothered about it.

I might have completed a Triathlon, Tough Mudder and a climb up the UK's highest mountain but I'm no athlete, that much is abundantly clear.

The wind was well and truly taken out of my sails when I rocked up for a Duathlon in February only to fail drastically and have to be chummed round the course by the sweeper. Just for the avoidance of doubt, the sweeper is the person who is supposed to make sure that the course is clear before everyone goes home. For the first half an hour I thought she was just some pathetic case who was even worse at mountain biking than me. I was mistaken. Actually, she was looking after me and making sure that I got home before the darkness descended. I didn't even manage to finish the 10km run which was the second part of the challenge, so all considered, it was a pretty spectacular failure.

You know what though? It was one of the most popular blog posts, proving conclusively that failure is more endearing. This is quite a good result for me considering that I came 21st out of 22 people in a kayaking challenge and only narrowly managed to beat a 73 year old woman in the Triathlon. I'm not a failure, I'm endearing.

What's more, failing miserably at the Duathlon didn't deter me from turning up to take my chances at a Triathlon in May, which was even more daunting for me because of the swimming aspect. The point I'm trying to make is, don't let a little failure get in your way. Dust yourself off (or in my case shower aggressively for two weeks to get rid of the mud), get back at it again and learn from your mistakes. Which leads me quite neatly on to my second lesson.

2) Failing to prepare is preparing to fail (but I don't worry too much about it anyway)

Preparation is not my strong suit but I learned my lesson the hard way in the Duathlon and so I made at least a small, half-arsed attempt to train for the other challenges. For example, I had swam at least four times before I turned up to complete a Triathlon and I even cycled the route in advance. Fair enough this was at the prompting of a friend but at least I did it.

So, having told you that preparation is key, I'm now going to completely contradict my advice and tell you that it isn't all THAT important. I basically half-arsed the training for everything this year. I really, really meant to train hard but, well, life just got in the way and also I got really invested in Gossip Girl and the Vampire Diaries so exercise just wasn't at the top of my list of priorities.

Guess what? It was all fine. I didn't run the full twelve miles for Tough Mudder but I still completed it. I didn't crack the 2 hour barrier for the Triathlon (those damn transitions!!) and I most certainly didn't gain the six pack that I expected from such an activity filled year (damn those carbohydrates!!) but I had a wonderful experience at every challenge. My, admittedly rather long-winded, point is this:

If you wait for the perfect moment when all is safe and assured, it may never arrive. Mountains will not be climbed, races won or lasting happiness achieved. - Maurice Chevalier

If you have a half minded inclination to do something then stop making excuses and just do it. The number of tomorrows we have are not infinite and our yesterdays rack up pretty quickly. I want my yesterdays to be full of stories, fond memories and experiences and this year I went out there and made that happen.

3) The journey is much improved when friends come along for the ride.

Apparently, I'm not the only person around here who has lost their marbles. In fact, it was surprisingly easy to rope a few friends in for the ride. This post is already very long and rambling so I'll save the personal thank you's for a separate post but just quickly - a huge thank you to everyone who has been involved in this year. The challenges in which you were involved were my favourite by a mile and I'm so glad to call you all my friends.

4) Talking to strangers on the internet totally isn't as weird as I thought it would be.

I had a bit of a nervous relationship with the 'Internet' pre blogging. This was mainly thanks to snarky commenters on The Libertines fan page back in the day who totally shot me down in flames for a random comment I made. Since then I avoided all sort of social media where I would encounter people that I had never met in real life. I was totally missing out.

This year I've discovered a whole world of smart, funny people on the internet through whom I experience parts of the world I've never been to, drool over food I'll never be arsed to make myself, laugh at a humour which is similar to mine, chat for hours about books and generally just share stories with like-minded people. To those of you whom I've spoken to on Twitter or who comment on my blog - thank you! You have made an internet-phobe a little less daunted.

5) My body does not deserve to be berated.

I've not always been particularly kind to myself but as the days draw in towards the next new year, I feel differently about that. I've spent a year looking at and sharing photographs of myself with little make up on, with my hair scraped back (which is my pet hate) and wearing exercise gear which doesn't flatter or leave much to the imagination. I even ran about outside in a swimming costume with built in shorts for f**k's sake! In not one of those videos or photographs did I think that I looked terrible, or fat, or any multitude of the usual negative thoughts.

Watching myself completing challenges I never thought possible was like watching a completely different person. In disassociating from myself in that way, my thoughts about the person in the photograph or video mirrored the way that I tend to think of other people, which is to say, that those thoughts were much kinder than the ones I normally give to myself.

I feel bad for ever berating my poor legs, the same ones which carried me faithfully up mountains, kicked, pedalled and ran their way through a Triathlon and which trembled only slightly when looking down at the drops below them. I felt impressed by arms which pulled me over obstacles and pushed me up from the ground after I'd crawled my way through mud and electric wires.

Despite a year of physical challenges, my body is no different to how it was at the start of the year but I like it infinitely more anyway. It is strong. It has surprised me with it's strength and I am grateful for everything that it is.

6) Life is all about the adventures.

If I will take anything away from this year it is this final point. The adventurous attitude that was sparked with signing myself up to complete twelve challenges has changed something in me. I found myself saying yes to more adventures outside of that including agreeing to climb an additional mountain, taking part in the colour me rad race and going along to blogger events where I didn't know anyone.

This year of challenges is over, but the adventures are not coming to an end. I'll be out there looking for them always.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

On Energy and Value





Image - Milky Way by Mihoko Ogaki found here

I don't think I could ever be described as 'relaxed'. I'm a knotty mess of frantic energy.

It shows itself in different ways. For example, I've always been an early riser. The concept of a long - lie was alien to me until I met Ryan who would sleep in until lunchtime (and sometimes beyond). In our early days of dating he would wake in the morning to find the space beside him empty and the house devoid of my presence as I'd been unable to laze around in bed or mooch around the house. Places to be, things to do and all that. He must have felt so used.

I've always exercised, although I'm not particularly sporty. If I don't do so at least fairly regularly, that energy which would be expended is trapped in my body, causing my heart to race at times and a horrible anxious feeling for no particular reason at all.

The energy bursts forth from me in emotion. I can be over-excited easily. Plans will come to me and I'll feel my heart burst with excitement at the prospect of putting them into place. Oftentimes I'll need to be talked down from them because my blind excitement fails to see that they're not really all that feasible.

I cry easily, at the smallest slight or worry, or for other people's pain. There is not a sad film, television programme or advert that I won't shed tears for.  I'm quick to anger too, the energy exploding out of me. Always, once I've angered, the feelings of guilt overwhelm me and unable to hold on to that energy either, I'm quick to beg for forgiveness.

The thoughts running through my brain are fast, as are the words that come out of my mouth. They are so fast sometimes that I trip myself up, stutter or say the wrong thing. Often I'll say things without an appropriate filter because there is no moment's pause between the thought flashing in my brain and the words forming on my lips. I write like that too. There are very few posts on here that I haven't written in one sitting. I don't have the patience to wait, edit and then wait some more before I edit a final draft. Once the idea is in my head, I must get it out there and mistakes be damned.

Overall, energy is good and I'd rather have too much than too little. Sometimes though, it manifests itself in my body in negative ways. The excessive worrying and the racing heart are one example, and another is the tension in my muscles, particularly my neck and shoulders. Running my hands down my neck and across my shoulders I feel like a bag of knotted ropes. I've spoken to massage therapists before who have chided me to 'relax my shoulders' and I try, I really do but I just don't know what 'relaxed shoulders' should feel like. My default position is not relaxed.

Yesterday was a particularly bad day for the old neck and shoulder region. There was one knot in there which I imagined could probably be seen protruding from my skin. When pressed, or even when I moved slightly, it lit a fire through my whole back, up through my neck and to my head, resulting in a dull throbbing headache. I had a thought that it might be worthwhile to start seeing someone regularly who would be able to work these knots out for me, rather than Ryan and I amateurishly pressing on the knots while I yelp in pain.

And this is the crux of what this blog post is about - I realised that I had no inclination to pay for such a thing. I earn enough (well not right at this moment but let's glide past that) that this would be a reasonably affordable luxury but I'd rather not spend my money on this and yet, I've quite happily, without too much second thought, spent £75.00 on a dress for a Christmas night out.

I'm conflicted about this because I don't identify as a materialistic person. I tell myself that being happy and healthy are more important than collecting things. Still here I am, contradicting myself and choosing to spend my money on things rather than on something which might do my body good.

I wonder if it's because having something tangible to hold and look at makes the money spent seem more worthwhile? Perhaps it's the length of time that I'll keep that dress, so I can wear it time and again, getting more 'value' for money whereas I know that within a week or two the knots will have returned? Maybe it all comes down to value in the end but that is troubling because I wonder now if I value that which others can see more than I value my own self? I'm not quite sure. There's not really a nice, neat conclusion to this post but feel free to chip in with any thoughts.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

A Traveler's Tale







On our trip to Berlin this summer, Ryan and I were waiting at the airport for our flight. Within the midst of our conversation he said something which struck me as strange. That was, he remarked that he hated the travelling part of going on holiday and suggested that it would be ideal if he could just close his eyes and open them to find himself at the specified destination.

I feel emphatically opposite to this. In fact, for me, the act of journeying to a different destination holds a certain pleasure which is perhaps greater, or at least equitable to, the time spent in the new destination.

The most travelling I've ever done in a short period of time was my solo trip around Italy in 2006. On my way there I sat in the small space beside the window, my eyes fixed on the fluffy white clouds billowing around the plane. I was filled with a distinct sensation of being nowhere. I knew the destination I was travelling towards, of course, but in the moment of transition between one place to the next I couldn't really know what awaited me and I didn't have the familiarity of my hometown to comfort me. Until I arrived at my destination, it could be anything that I wanted it to be. There were no realities to constrain my vision and nothing to disappoint or underwhelm.

Once in Italy, I arrived at each train station with my black rucksack slung on my shoulders, my small, pink suitcase trailing behind me and a sense of anticipation flowing in my veins. Stepping into the station signified that it was time to move on to the next city, to move towards the unknown, to have the freedom of not really 'being' anywhere.

In short, I like the transitory nature of travelling.

*****

I left my job last month. I left the one before that and the one before that too.

I changed my University course at the beginning of second year. I dropped out at the beginning of third year. I returned the year after that.

I tried to start a vintage clothing business one year.

I went back to University and got a Masters degree.

I got an internship and worked towards a policy role.

I got the policy role. We planned to get a mortgage, buy a house and start being responsible adults. I moved the goalposts again and left my job to accept a temporary, part time contract in an industry where this is the normal career path. After that contract is finished, if I'm lucky I'll get another short term contract and then another and so on. The prospect of the unknown is terrifying.

And yet, I am happier than I have been for a while. I like this period of change, of making plans and of not quite knowing how it will work out. It suits me to be in flux, to be moving from one thing to the next. I like to be in transition. I like to be on airplanes and trains.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Challenge Number 11: Go Ape.

This month's challenge was a difficult one to pick because it's not easy to sustain completing a challenge every month for a whole year without running out of ideas. I almost, in a bit of a blind panic, booked myself in to do a bungee jump but chickened out and so Go Ape was chosen as a sort of halfway house. It is admittedly less extreme but I've had a desire to try it out for a while and what is this year all about if not to do things that I've always wanted to do? Exactly.

My favourite challenges so far have been the ones that I've managed to rope other, unsuspecting victims into and this one definitely falls into this category. I managed to convince Ryan to take part with me, which was good for many reasons, not least that he was able to successfully navigate the way to Glentress Forest where the Go Ape trail is situated. Navigation has never been my strong suite you see.

In an unusual stroke of luck the weather today was lovely, if a little cold. This makes a pleasant change because most of the other challenges have been overseen by grey rainclouds and an accompanying bad mood on my part as a result.

We arrived at Go Ape and got ourselves geared up with the necessary safety equipment. Of course, there were the obligatory jokes about whether or not I was tall enough to complete the course and then there was a slight panic when we read the safety disclaimer which claimed that three people had fallen off the course because they hadn't made sure that their clips were properly secured. I have a tendency to forget things frequently, so I didn't really have much faith in myself to remember all the wee clippy things (also called carabiners for the technically inclined). Quite a bit of practicing before heading up to the course put my mind at rest however and we mainly just felt excited to get on with the challenge.

We headed to the start area and the first bit of the course was chaperoned by the Go Ape guide. I think I may have annoyed him a little with my inability to understand the carabiners because he chose me and Ryan as the guinea pigs to tackle the first bit of the course. I climbed the rope ladder up to the course with wobbly legs, made my way across a tightrope and then down a small zip wire.

I'd been confident in my ability to get round the course with minimal fear as I'm not particularly scared of heights (hello: already tackled that). Despite my confidence, when I first got up there it felt a little more nerve racking than I had expected. Once I was pushed off the edge by the guide - clearly I did annoy him - and realised that the harness was more than capable of supporting me, I gained confidence and made it round the rest of the course with ease. Just call me Lara Croft from now on.

The best parts of the course were the zip wires and the Tarzan swings, the second of which entailed quite a drop before the harness kicked in to support me. My screams as I leapt off this obstacle probably indicate that I'm not entirely cut out for bungee jumping.




The last part of the course was the big zip wire across the reservoir. I tried to find out how high this zip wire is but couldn't find the information on the internet. You'll just have to be content with my educated guess which is - pretty bloody high. The photograph doesn't really do it justice as it's much higher once you get out of the hill and through the trees. The video at the bottom (of a random person zipping across probably gives a better idea of the height.





The videos on the blog are pretty rubbish quality but I'll share them on my Facebook if you'd like to have a nosy at the full thing.

Also, just a reminder that all of these challenges are being carried out with the aim to raise money for two wonderful charities. You can donate to Sick Kid's Friend's Foundation or Stroke Association via the hyperlinks. Thank you.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

A week to forget.

This past week and a half has been a bit of a write off, truth be told.

One of the worst parts of it was that my new shiny bike was stolen from right outside my flat door. What makes this even more disappointing is that I noticed the absent bike right after I stopped a fight outside of Lidl. I mean, that would have made for a good story but now it's been completely usurped by the case of the missing bike.

Also, I feel that it's important to point out that this bothersome bike pilfering was actually the second offence perpetrated against me within the past few months. My decision to leave my other bike outside as a free present for someone came back to bite me in the backside as I suspect that it was a little like leaving a trail of breadcrumbs for the thieving shits.

Oh how I laughed at their willingness to steal a fifteen year old bike with no working brakes. I'm not laughing now though. AM I?!?

Maybe Bill Murray stole my bike?

Another troubling development in my life of late is that I have a wonderful bout of adult acne/skin infection/bubonic plague which, even after three rounds of antibiotics, simply refuses to clear.

There are two ways in which this is RUINING my life.

Firstly, I look like a spotty, pre-pubescent teenager which is not ideal really. No, not ideal at all.

Secondly, having never given blood before, I've been keen to add this in as one of my challenges this year. I can't do that while I'm on antibiotics which is a bit frustrating as the stubbornness of the monstrosity on my face is making it seem likely that I'll be on them until well into the new year. I can say goodbye to that challenge then.

In addition to a stolen bike and a spotty face, I'm also kind of, in between jobs at the moment which has been a little bit stressful.

Finally.....there is a mouse in my house.


It is not as cute as this one.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

One in which I introduce myself

As you might have gathered from the last post, life has been a little bit quiet around these parts recently and inspiration for blog posts has been a little thin on the ground. Maybe you come round these parts of the internet for more than just stories about how I very nearly left the house without trousers on. If you do, I'd like you to readjust your expectations accordingly.

Anyway, I felt like writing something, but didn't really have much to write about until I came across one of these blogger questionnaire things that sometimes does the rounds. I've been blogging for the best part of a year already and have never really introduced myself so I thought that now was as good a time as any....

1) How tall are you?

I'm 5, 4.

Technically, that's not true.

I'm 5,3 and 3/4s but I always round up. Also, 5,4 is above average height (or so Wikipedia told me) so if everyone can stop with the patting on the head and the picking me up without my permission that would be great.

2) Do you have a hidden talent?

Erm, it's not really a hidden talent, nor is it probably that rare a skill but I am a horse rider. Not everyone can do that. Right?



If that doesn't count as a hidden talent then I can also make my pinkie toes wiggle without moving any of my other toes. Still probably not classified as a talent. This game sucks.

3) What is your biggest blogging related peeve?

Sorry for being a complete pedant but bad spelling and grammar really piss me off. *frantically checks post for own spelling and grammar mistakes of which there are probably a few*

4) What is your favourite song?

As mentioned before I'm a little bit obsessed by First Aid Kit. I love all their songs so it's tough to choose one but I'm going to go with My Silver Lining....and EmmyLou. Okay that's two songs but I couldn't help myself.

As for my favourite song of all time - Carolina in My Mind by James Taylor has some pretty strong memories attached to it.

5) What's your favourite way to spend time alone?

Have I mentioned Gossip Girl before?

Actually, I finished that programme. I watched all six seasons within a month which I consider to be a major life achievement, particularly considering how terribly dire it became towards the end.

My new current favourite thing to do when I'm along is watch The Vampire Diaries. Evidently I like television shows aimed at my inner teenager.

Other than watching TV which I realise makes me sound slightly depressing, I have a variety of activities in which I partake when I am left to my own devices. These include;

Reading. I want to pretend that I read a lot of books but actually this mainly pertains to twitter, the daily mail side bar of shame and wikipedia (because I like knowing random information).
Writing a first chapter of a novel.
Realising that I don't have a second chapter.
Repeating this process regularly.
Laughing at my own jokes.
Pinning motivational quotes on Pinterest.
Eating cereal instead of meals
Eating half of Ryan's chocolate then putting the other half in the bin. Possibly his least favourite habit of mine?

I consider it a blessing that I don't live on my own.

6) What's your favourite junk food?

Lidl's white chocolate and Pizza. Not at the same time as that would be ridiculous. Or would it? 

7) Do you have a pet?

YES! I have the world's coolest cat. His name is Crunchie because I named all my cats after chocolate bars. (Whispa, Minstrels and Crunchie). I was a chubby child.




Crunchie has used approximately five of his nine lives thus far. His escapades include being run over, going for a spin in the tumble dryer, falling into a drum of oil and ingesting some, being shot in the face with an air pellet gun and being locked in a shed for a length of time.

Not all of these were my mother's fault. Some were though and I don't let her forget it.

8) When were you last embarrassed. What happened?

My life is a catalogue of embarrassment.

Like the time I whipped some lube out in front of my parents.

Or the time I had to ask strangers in the swimming pool to find my nose clip for me.

Or today, when I wore my jumper backwards for the first hour and a half of my working day.

I could go on. The point is though, that none of these things really embarrass me. Perhaps it's the frequency with which such things tend to happen to me that means I don't get embarrassed very easily. A side effect of this is that I tend to over share. You might have noticed that.

The last time I was properly embarrassed was probably summer 2012 when my flip flop fell off as I was walking down the aisle as a bridesmaid in my friend's Ibizan wedding. I had to limp down the whole aisle, with one flip flop on and one left tragically behind.

The whole saga culminated in my friend, the bride, having to stop on her way down the aisle to pick up my flip flop and pass it to me as she reached the alter.

9) If you could only drink one drink for the rest of your life (apart from water) what would it be?

Strawberry and Lime Cider. On ice, with a wedge of lime thank you very much.

10) If you could live anywhere in the world where would you live?

Currently, I want to live in Berlin.  I have a basic grasp of German - 'Hallo, Ich heisse Kylie. Ich bin sieben und zwanzig jahre alt' - so I'm halfway there really.

I've also had a lifelong obsession with Italy, which I believe is largely down to the pasta and pizza. Again, I have fairly proficient language skills to live in this country. By this of course, I mean that I have the skills to order pizza and ask for directions to, erm, the church. 'Dove la Chiesa?' 

I'm hoping that other destinations can be easily substituted once I know their italian names.

In short, either Berlin or Italy (probably Rome) will do.

For now, I live in Edinburgh and that's good too because there is a castle here.

11) Last romantic gesture from a crush/date/boyfriend/spouse.

Ryan bought me Lidl white chocolate and strawberry and lime cider. He knows the way to my heart.

12) What do you have hung on your wall that you adore?


I have signed James Taylor tickets hanging on my wall. I battled my way through a crowd of octogenarians for these so they're very precious.

Also see question 4.

13) What blogger do you secretly want to be friends with?

Well this is worded quite creepily.

My favourite bloggers are as follows;

Awash With Wonder
A Dash of Ginger
Tartan Mouth
Not Wed or Dead
Hazel Jane





Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Early mornings do strange things to people.



Moving on from my disappointing fitness streak of late, I have gained a renewed sense of motivation from somewhere. So much so, that this week I've been getting up early to go to the gym before work. This enthusiasm isn't likely to stick around for too long but hey, at least it's here for a little while.

I woke up at 6.15am on Monday morning gloating a little that I'd managed to get up and drag myself off to a spin class at such an ungodly hour. The internal monologue went a little like this oh look at me, attending the gym everyday. I'm not one of those lazy sods still in their bed!'

I tied my trainers, grabbed my keys and gym pass and headed for the door.

I hadn't put trousers on.

Thankfully, I noticed just as I was opening the front door so I didn't venture out into the wider world sans pants, because that would be a terrifying experience for everyone involved. However the point remains that when you're feeling all smug and uppity the universe will find a way to bring you back down to earth fairly quickly.

That's all folks.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Challenge 10: Men's Health Survival of the Fittest



I won't lie. I was not looking forward to this challenge.

I was mainly dreading it because as a result of September being a month filled with colds and infections any training I might have done had been well and truly sacked off. One of the key trends throughout this year, and attested to by these blogs, is that I have a tendency to turn up to things pretty much underprepared anyway. So on this occasion you might say that I was under - under prepared. Let's just not let the boundaries of the English language constrain us too much. Under - under prepared can be a thing. I just made it so.

I was also not in the mood to have my spectacular lack of fitness become really, really evident to me. I was quite content sitting on my couch, watching my tenth consecutive episode of Gossip Girl and kidding myself that if I really wanted to I could just pop out for a casual, easy as you like, 10k run no bother. There's a famous quote which goes a little something like 'Denial isn't just a river in Egypt'. Well it isn't. Denial is also a really comfortable state of mind which I have inhabited for the past two months.

However, I have broadcast to everyone I know, and plenty that I don't, that I'll be completing a challenge every month throughout this year. To back out of that promise would be pretty embarrassing - although by now I'm sure most people will just be glad to hear the end of it. Looking like a failure only marginally trumps being in denial for me, so with much huffing and puffing I set off for today's challenge.

It was raining of course, as it has for pretty much every challenge I've taken part in this year. Thankfully, the rain did stop and the sun did shine a little by the time my group was ready to set off. Thank the lord for small mercies.

The premise of the event is that it's an urban assault course, so something along the lines of Tough Mudder but a little less mud (and if I'm honest a little less tough). The obstacles were fairly basic - mainly sort of metal contraptions which involved a bit of climbing, a bit of ducking and a bit of scrambling. There were a few monkey bars which I missed out because I have never been possessed of the ability to tackle the damn things.

The course was 10k, which is a distance I'm fairly comfortable with so I wasn't too worried about it. However, it was set in Edinburgh, a city in which everything seems to be uphill. Thanks to Edinburgh's topography it was a hilly and very tough course which involved climbing about seven sets of stairs and clambering to the top of Carlton Hill and Arthur's Seat. In between that there was plenty of uphill terrain around the Royal Mile and the Grassmarket too. For those competitors who weren't from Edinburgh, I could imagine that it was a pretty spectacular route but for me, it's probably the first time I've actively hated this city. My thought process was a constant repeat of ''CAN'T WE JUST GET A FLAT BIT OF ROAD!?!? OH AYE, YET ANOTHER SPECTACULAR VIEW OF THE CITY!'' Humph.

We also ran through the Cowgate which, for those who don't know, is the part of Edinburgh where copious amounts of students congregate on a Saturday night. Running through the alleyways in this part of town entailed dodging a couple of piles of sick, a multitude of empty cans of Tennants and a few abandoned kebabs.

The last kilometre was a run back into Princes Street Gardens where there was a number of obstacles to get through before I could run on to the final wall, climb over and make my way over the finish line. I thought that this was the best part of the course because these obstacles were quite tough. There was cold water, there were high walls and there were tyres to crawl through.




I did fail miserably at the climbing wall, which I thought I'd scamper up no problem, but you see, climbing seven sets of stairs and numerous hills really takes it out of your legs. Plus they were heavy with the water from the previous obstacles and so they just weren't playing ball with me really. It was pretty handy that they chose that time to give up because it was the only obstacle where Ryan had a clear shot of me with the camera. Maybe it was performance anxiety? Let's not go there.




I made it across the finish line with a smile on my face and then went to pick up my goody bag which I do love because you normally get some free food in there. Walking back to the car with my parents and Ryan I excitedly delved into the bag with a little 'ooohh I wonder what's in here?' only to pull out a box of Durex lubricant. (Warming for him, tingling for her if you're wondering).

'Oh, some lube' I said cheerily, before recognising that the audience was my gobsmacked boyfriend and my mortified parents. I immediately followed this up with a joke about how this combined with the bottle opener on my finisher's medal meant that we were in for a good Sunday night. Evidently, I've not learned the primary rule of comedy - know your audience. So all that really remains is for me to say thank you Men's Health. Really. Thank you for one of the most awkward moments of my life*.



*My parents are a good laugh so it wasn't all that awkward. Just a little.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Things I've learned this week

This week has been one full of life lessons which I felt it necessary to share with you. I might possibly, slightly be stating the obvious but I'll crack on regardless.

Life Lesson Number One.

Thieves don't discriminate.

If you leave your bike unattended they will steal it. They will steal it even when said bike is fifteen years old, has flat tires and no working brakes.

Granted, I did leave the bike outside in the hope that this would happen because nobody wanted to buy it for a tenner on Gumtree and I couldn't be bothered driving it around to the recycling centre. Despite wanting it to happen I still felt a little bit violated when it did go missing.

Life Lesson Number Two

The moment that you feel motivated to get back into the exercise malarkey, you will fall ill.

A couple of weeks ago, I went for a run which brought me back to life after a little slump. I was filled with energy and excitement to get back into some form of routine exercise, to start feeling bouyant again instead of deflated. I immediately got the cold.

Last week, I went swimming and bought a new bike. I started to feel excited at the possibility of going exploring on my new bike while the sun was still shining in Edinburgh.  I immediately got the cold.

I can't get rid of this bloody cold now which means that I haven't exercised in over a week, have spent a ridiculous amount of time watching Gossip Girl, and haven't really had the energy to do anything productive at all.

Life Lesson Number Three. 

You should exercise restraint when it comes to kissing people who are full of the cold.

This is true, even in those situations when you think that because you had the cold first that you have passed it to them and somehow you are exempt from catching the bugs. You are not. You will get ill and you will be forced to confront life lesson number four.

Life Lesson Number Four

Other people will not be so forthcoming with their kisses when you are ill.

Not only can I not persuade him to even give me a kiss, but I am also not allowed to stand within a five metre radius, breathe in his general direction or cook anything lest I breathe all over the food. Having the cold is miserable and lonely and I just want to STOP SNOTTERING!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Challenge Number 9 - part 1. Car booting



There are some who might think that this month's challenge is a bit of a cop-out as it didn't involve some wacky, fitness related activity. I would suggest, however, that anyone who doubts how challenging a car boot sale is obviously hasn't been to one and met some of the characters who frequent these events. Characters like the man wearing a t-shirt which said 'It's not how deep you fish, it's the wriggle of your worm.''

Or this weirdo wearing ear muffs in summer weather.

(This is actually my lovely mother who puts up with my mad ideas and my lack of organisational skills every day).

You get all sorts, you really do.

It was also a big challenge for me as I have recently come to the realisation that I'm an obsessive hoarder. In fact, I'm so convinced by this that I suspect that my fifteen minutes of fame will be on one of those terrible television programmes where people crawl into my house and exclaim with distaste things like..

''You have how many wardrobes full of clothes!?''

and

''Exactly how many pairs of pyjamas does one person need? Clearly she is deranged.''

It's not that I'm particularly materialistic. In fact as I age, I'm much less interested in material things, clothes especially. Rather it's that I'm ridiculously sentimental about things. Rooting through my drawers trying to decide what could go and what couldn't was therefore a fairly emotional experience. I came across many things I couldn't bear to part with, like the top I wore the first night I met Ryan, the jumper that was my favourite six years ago and the jeans I wore that time I bought a pizza from Asda and the person behind the counter put just the right amount of toppings on it.  Of course I also struggled to part with anything which looked like it might still vaguely fit me (''I'm sure I'll wear it again one day. It will definitely come back into fashion at some point. Right?'').

Worst of all, I think, is the depth of my attachment to anything which was gifted to me. A prime example of this is that Ryan once asked to use one of my toothbrush heads as he'd ran out and I refused on the grounds that my Mum put them in my stocking for Christmas and they wouldn't be 'special' anymore if he used them. You can see that this might present a problem for throwing things out. Oh no, not that top. It was a Birthday gift eight years ago. Do I ever wear it anymore? No but that's beside the point. Nope, I can't throw away that hot water bottle because I bought it with a gift voucher my aunt gave me and I'll feel sad. Does one person need seven hot water bottles? Probably not but it's the principle of the matter isn't it? However, despite my clearly obsessive hoarder proclivities I actually managed to select quite a lot of items to take to the car boot sale and I only cried on about three occasions so it was all good.

I arranged for my Mum to come through to my flat the night before so we could get up early on the day. My collection is so expansive that it spreads into her house too so she spent some time cleaning out the wardrobe in my old room. She loaded everything in her car and drove an hour and a half to Edinburgh only to be told that, ten minutes before she arrived at my flat, I had discovered that the car boot sale we planned to go to was actually held on Sunday instead of the Saturday. OOPS - sorry Mummy!

Thankfully we found an alternative venue to flog all my precious, precious items on the Saturday as originally planned. The day went well and I managed to make £110 to split between the two charities that I'm raising money for. I might have been a bit sentimental about parting with those items but knowing that the funds raised are going towards something so positive definitely makes it much easier.

p.s - This is part one of this month's challenge because I plan to continue with the 'giving away' theme and donate some blood but I need to wait until I'm over these pesky colds that keep infecting me.


Saturday, 13 September 2014

I forget the rest



Technically this quote is paraphrasing the wonderful Walt Whitman. If you're interested, what he actually wrote was ''day by day and night by night we were together - all else has long been forgotten by me''

Today is a remarkable day for me because it marks nine years to the day that I successfully managed to chat up a boy with floppy, blonde highlighted hair and ripped jeans. Or, if you're minded to believe his side of the story, it's been nine years since I responded positively to a group of young men catcalling me as I stumbled drunkenly out of the nightclub toilets. I'm all for being a strong, independent woman so I'm going to stick with the first explanation. Girl power and all that.

Ordinarily, chatting up boys with floppy hair and ripped jeans, while delightful of course, wouldn't necessarily be cause for celebration nine years later. In this particular case though I'm not only celebrating the original cajolery (my word of the day - if you're interested), but also the fact that I've managed to keep him hanging around since then. I have very little understanding of exactly how I've managed to do this, but here we are anyway.

It's a strange feeling because I'm pretty certain that nine years ago I was only about ten years old so I definitely should not have been out in nightclubs chatting boys up. Of course, I'm fooling myself because if that were the case I'd only be nineteen now and actually I'm twenty-seven. Clearly there is a huge chunk of my life that I've just lost. Where did it go? I genuinely can't remember. It's terrifying. When I try to piece together those missing nine years, I realise that most of my memories involve him in some way or another, even when he wasn't even part of the original event.

It's also a pretty strange realisation that I have spent more years of my life dating someone than I spent at high school. It makes me feel like a real grown up which isn't a feeling I'm generally accustomed to. To counterbalance this horrendous realisation that I'm officially old, I thought about spending this evening drinking lots of cider and pretending that I'm fifteen again but then I realised that I am definitely as old as it says on the tin and all I really desire is a nice meal and an early night. Luckily, the other half seems to want the same things from life these days so that should all go to plan.

Anyway, whichever version of the story you believe, nine years ago tonight I met a boy with blonde hair and baggy, ripped jeans. He was warned that I was trouble by a kind friend of mine and he wilfully ignored this useful advice. More bloody fool him. I suspect that I probably have been trouble a lot of the time but I also like to imagine that I've been quite a bit of good fun too. At least, I hope he's had as much fun as I have.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Dead Poets Society - an appreciation



I'd never seen this film before but I am a 90's child after all, and therefore a fan of the late Robin Williams. I'm more accustomed to seeing him dressed as a woman or voicing a blue genie so this film was something a little different but I had heard a lot about it so decided to give it a go last week.

There's a strange thing I do whenever I watch a film or television series that I enjoy. I relentlessly google all the actors and scan wikipedia for the story of how the film came to be. Maybe I'm just a bit nosy but also it's quite useful because I do have a lot of irrelevant information to hand should you ever need it. I did this exact thing after watching Dead Poets Society so it should be clear that I really liked the film and as an added bonus now I know exactly what the career path of all the actors involved in the film has been since. Also, spouses, children and any scandal. I know all that too. Thankfully I only wasted about an hour of my life on that, so I'm chalking that up as time spent productively.

For anyone who hasn't seen the film, I don't think I'm ruining anything here by telling you that the phrase 'O Captain, My Captain' from a poem written by Walt Whitman features pretty prominently in the film. As does this quote from John Keating (Robin Williams) referencing Whitman again.

''Answer. 
 That you are here - that life exists and identity,
 That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

What will your verse be?''

Now, I'd heard of Walt Whitman before because, erm hello, he plays a pretty crucial role in Breaking Bad (W.W - Walt Whitman or Walter White) and also there's some mention of him in the Notebook. I'm displaying exactly how highbrow my tastes are here aren't I? So this third mention of Whitman was enough for me to do a little search on Pinterest and discovered that there were very many poignant quotes attributed to his name and if there's one thing I adore, it's a good quote.

In short, I've discovered a new favourite poet and I recommend that if you haven't before, you should watch Dead Poets Society and you should definitely read a Whitman poem. You can find the Leaves of Grass here .

I've only made my way through some of them but I liked this one a lot. I can't figure out how to make it sit properly on the page and I don't have the inclination to waste much of my time on it so apologies for that.

I Sit and Look Out

  I sit and look out upon all the sorrows of the world, and upon all
      oppression and shame,
  I hear secret convulsive sobs from young men at anguish with
      themselves, remorseful after deeds done,
  I see in low life the mother misused by her children, dying,
      neglected, gaunt, desperate,
  I see the wife misused by her husband, I see the treacherous seducer
      of young women,
  I mark the ranklings of jealousy and unrequited love attempted to be
      hid, I see these sights on the earth,
  I see the workings of battle, pestilence, tyranny, I see martyrs and
      prisoners,
  I observe a famine at sea, I observe the sailors casting lots who
      shall be kill'd to preserve the lives of the rest,
  I observe the slights and degradations cast by arrogant persons upon
      laborers, the poor, and upon negroes, and the like;
  All these—all the meanness and agony without end I sitting look out upon,
  See, hear, and am silent.





Saturday, 30 August 2014

Challenge 8: Kayaking down the Great Glen



For someone who has a deathly fear of water, I sure have spent a lot of time in and around it this year. Facing this fear head on (over and over) might be considered bravery or stupidity. You decide.

Loch Oich is about three hours from Edinburgh so it was a 5am start for me on Friday morning in order to get there in time for the challenge. We were on the road for 6am and I had a breakfast of champions (Red Bull and Squares crisps) to set me up for the task ahead.

The first highlight of my day was that we found the end of the rainbow! The photograph doesn't really do it justice but honestly, I've never been that close to the end of the rainbow before and it's been something I've been obsessed with since I watched this film. Which nobody else ever remembers by the way.



The second highlight of the day was that I managed to perfectly colour co-ordinate my outfit with the safety gear I was supplied with, the water shoes my friend lent me and also my kayak. Never let it be said that there is ever an excuse for not looking fabulous. Certainly partaking in adventure activities on miserable days in Scotland is not an excuse that I will ever accept. I probably should have got my hair blown out for the occasion to top it all off. Sadly, there wasn't a Most Stylish prize. Shame really.














The weather didn't look particularly appealing for a jaunt down the middle of a river so it could be said that I was a little on edge. There was talk of lightening which put me in a thoroughly bad mood. However, all the nasty rumours came to nothing and actually apart from five minutes at the end of the kayaking journey, the weather held up pretty nicely.

There were a few other teams involved in the challenge so in total there were about twenty kayakers lining up to start the journey. I was one of the last ones to get in. Confession: I may have been actively avoiding it. My decision to wait until last was a poor one as I had to watch two of the others capsize their boat and fall into the water. This did not exactly fill me with the confidence I required to step into the evil contraption. Never one to listen to the sensible voices in my head however, I got into the kayak and screamed loudly, eyes clenched shut as the evil witch  event helper pushed me out onto the Loch.

Actually, I quickly discovered that as usual, most of my dramatics were for nothing. The Loch was very still and once I figured out my balance, it was actually plain sailing. The views around us were incredible as we made our way down surrounded by forests and mountains on both sides.

As an aside: I did think about explaining exactly how cinematic the experience was by using the metaphor of an adventurous scene from a movie. I was thinking of something Lord of the Rings-esque. However, I made the fatal error of googling 'paddling movie scenes' to try to find a link and, erm, let's just say that it didn't return many PG options.

The actual competition part of the challenge was a time trial which we completed at the end of the 7k kayak. Unfortunately for my team, I don't really have a competitive bone in my body and I was also highly distracted thinking of rainbows, movie scenes and best dressed prizes. Also there were some ducks that I had to take care to avoid. In short, my time trial didn't go very well. In fact I finished a full minute behind my friends so it's evident that I'm not really cut out for life as a competitive kayaker. However, I'm not too bothered about this pathetic display because it's the taking part that counts. That's what my Mum tells me anyway.